Monday, 26 January 2015

Grigorovich's Swan Lake in Bradford

National Media Museum
Photo Wikipedia

Last Saturday Bradford City Association Football Club beat Premier League leaders Chelsea by 4 goals to 2, a remarkable achievement for a first division club. But the city has more than just a successful football club to celebrate. It has fine public buildings such as the City Hall, Salt's Mill and St George's Hall, a great cathedral and, more recently, some impressive mosques, famous sons and daughters like the Brontës, Hockney and Delius and some great museums including the National Media Museum.

The National Media Museum is part of the Science Museum Group. It has 7 floors of galleries with permanent exhibitions on photography, television, animation, video games, the internet and optics. It often hosts temporary exhibitions on those topics. It maintains a collection of 3.5 million pieces in its research facility. It has 3 cinemas where it hosts the Bradford International Film Festival. One of those cinemas is named after Cubby Broccoli who made the Bond films. It was to that cinema that Pathe Live transmitted Yuri Grigorovich's production of Swan Lake. That was probably the best venue outside the theatre to see the show because it attracted a mature, appreciative crowd who had seen ballet before.

Pathe Live treats its audience like adults. It has an excellent presenter in Katherina Novikova. Yesterday she interviewed Ludmila Semenyaka who had danced Odette-Odile as well as many of the other great roles and Artemy Belyakov who danced von Rothbart (or "the evil genius" as he is called in Grigorovich's production) in yesterday's performance. It would have been nice to have had an interview with Denis Rodkin who danced Siegfried and Svetlana Zakharova who danced Odette-Odile. However, Rodkin did talk to Ms Novikova in the interval of The Nutcracker transmission so I know what he is likely to have said (see Clara grows up- Grigorovitch's Nutcracker transmitted directly from Moscow 21 Dec 2014). Mercifully Pathe Live does not see the need to project audience tweets during the screening unlike the Royal Opera House's screenings.

Grigorovich's version of Swan Lake is different. As I have noted von Rothbart becomes "the evil genius". The show is compressed into two acts instead of three or four. There is no prologue explaining how Odette became a swan, no gift of a bow, no trip by the lads to the lake to try it out, the lovely divertissements in the royal palace in what is normally Act III are turned into a pitch by the various princesses and the whole episode takes place in Siegfried's imagination so that nobody has to jump into the lake in the last scene. Looking on the positive side there are expanded roles for the jester (danced by Igor Tsvirko) and also for von Rothbart danced by Belyakov.

Now I was brought on Ashton's version for the Royal Ballet  which has been lovingly preserved by English National Ballet (see What Manchester does today 10 Oct 2014) and I have to say that I do prefer that version. I don't take kindly to change for change's sake when it comes to my favourite ballets such as The Nutcracker and Swan Lake but that's not to say that I am against innovation. Grigorovich's versions of Swan Lake and The Nutcracker do work though not perhaps as fairy tales as much of the magic of those stories is removed from them. 

Overall I enjoyed the performance very much indeed. Tchaikovsky's magnificent score remains which was conducted well by Pavel Sorokin. Above all there was some glorious dancing. Particularly the pas de deux in the seduction scene in the palace. Rodkin and Zakharova are fine artists. His jumps and her fouettés were thrilling. They were both supported well by Tvirko and Belyakov and a splendid corps. Simon Virsaladze's designs did not show up well in the cinema but they may well have been more impressive on the Bolshoi's historic stage.

The last production in this series of transmissions will be Ivan the Terrible on 19 April 2015. That is not a ballet that is well known in this country and I have never seen it. The transmissions that I have enjoyed most have been of ballets that are not performed here regularly such as A Legend of Love, Spartacus and Marco Spada. I look forward to Ivan very much indeed.

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